Saturday, July 30, 2011

DaGeDar Party!

Last weekend, we threw an end of the summer party for my boy and some of his friends. His birthday is in January, and because of the unpredictable weather we have not had much luck throwing winter parties.

So when i was presented with the opportunity to host a DaGeDar party over the summer, i jumped at the chance! i really like to throw themed parties, and the kind folks from Momselect provided us with all the goodies needed to throw a really fun party! i also love the idea that unlike a birthday party, where the guests bring presents...we get to give our guests presents!

So what are DaGeDar? They are supercharged ball bearings, like racing marbles. Each DaGeDar has a steel core center and a cool character graphic. You can collect them, race them, trade them and register them online. Each one comes with a special code, that you can type in online to unlock your DaGeDar's spirit within!

Each character has a distinct personality trait; different motivations drive their races. They might use elemental powers of strength, cunning or their trader’s wit in their drive for victory. DaGeDar is reminiscent of marble racing, and collecting hot wheels cars...but is completely different. It's play pattern fosters imagination and creativity for hours of collaborative or solitary play!

i had a good time putting together goodie bags for our guests. Each child received a bag that contained a set of DaGeDar racing marbles, a box of crayons, gummy snacks, a crazy straw, punching balloon and a bag of M&M's. i was trying to avoid handing out too much candy junk, especially since we also had a pinata...:)

Our kit came with a racing track, a spinner, a launcher and a set of balls for each of our guests. The kids had a great time setting up the race track and opening up their ball sets. They each took turns entering their codes into the website to unlock info about their DaGeDar.

We created a game for the launcher by cutting holes in a large piece of cardboard. We gave each hole a point value, and then let the kids try to launch their balls into the holes. It was a big hit! They lined up the balls, and then used the spinner to send the balls flying.

Remember how i said i loved themed parties?? This is our DaGeDar watermelon. i made a really tasty fruit salad with watermelon, cantaloupe, mandarin oranges, grapes and blackberries. This was my first time carving a watermelon, but i think it came out pretty good. :) The kids loved it!

These didn't fit the theme, but they are such an wonderfully refreshing treat when it is super hot out. i found the recipe here . i didn't cut mine into flowers, because of lack of time...but the kids didn't notice at all and really seemed to enjoy them.

The kids spent the first hour and half playing with the DaGeDar. They were creating their own racing games, and trading balls. We don't have air conditioning though, and it was super humid out. So we all headed outside for a water fight! We had water balloons and water blasters and everyone got completely soaked!

What's a party without a pinata?? We had so much fun creating our DaGeDar pinata. We made it using basic paper mache' over a balloon. Then painted it to resemble Chee Zier. (He looked the easiest!)

Of course the boy had a great time 'battling' the pinata.

DaGeDar is a new twist on the old classic of marble racing. Racing DaGeDar balls requires skill, practice, agility and finesse. The kids must learn to control the speed and velocity of DaGeDar balls in order to propel them through thrilling loops and turns without forcing the balls off the tracks. The cool graphics and stories behind these balls makes them collectible, and i love that they don't require batteries!

DaGeDar toys and accessories will be available online and in stores this summer!

Mom Select provided me with the toys for this review. i was not compensated for writing about the DaGeDar. All opinions are my own.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Refrigerator dill pickles

Now that the garden produce is really beginning to flow in, canning season is here. To be completely honest though, with the heat and humidity as bad as it has been this year...i have zero desire to spend my day in a hot kitchen canning. We do not have air conditioning, and my kitchen gets extremely hot while cooking/ canning as you can probably imagine.

After the rain this past weekend, my fridge became completely overrun with cucumbers. Every time i step outside i find 3-4 more hiding under leaves. We've been eating fresh cucumbers with every meal, but still can't keep up with them. So i knew it was time to make pickles.

Last year, i tried my friend Danielle's recipe for refrigerator pickles and my family absolutely loved them! This is a no cook, no process recipe that is perfect to make when it's too hot to pull out the canner. It's easy to follow and is great for those first time pickle makers. These pickles are kept in the refrigerator, and they stay crisp and fresh tasting. The longer you let them sit the stronger the flavor gets. YUm.

The recipe makes 1 gallon of pickles. i split mine into 4 quart jars, so that i could keep a couple jars in the fridge and give a couple a way.

i'll be making cooked pickles again this year as soon as it cools down just a bit. i'm still searching for that perfect pickle recipe. Last year i tried several, and they all came out too mushy or they didn't have the greatest flavor. If you have a favorite pickle recipe i would love to hear it!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Garden Goodies

Summer garden goodies are beginging to roll in! i've just started harvesting Cherokee purple, Morgage lifters, and Box Car Willie tomatoes. This afternoon i'll be making some refridgerator pickles using Danielle's (One Green Tomato) recipe.

Ecomom Winner Announced!

The winner of the Ecomom GC giveaway is.....

Tracy said... 18

I follow the enchanted tree.

anaturalprocess at gmail dot com

Congratulations Tracy! i will send you an email later today. You will have 48 hours to respond to my email or a new winner will be chosen! Thank you all who entered!!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Raising caterpillars.

Earlier this week, my boy was out tending his garden and he came running in to show me the tiny caterpillar he had found.

This interesting little guy was only about 1/4" long. i'm quite amazed that my boy was able to spot it. He said it was just hanging out in the grass, near some Queen Anne's lace. We checked all around the Queen Anne's Lace but found no other caterpillars.

The caterpillar is a Black Swallowtail. This is the first instar. The instars are the stages between shedding skin. It will shed it's skin several times as it grows larger. Host plants for the Black swallowtail caterpillars are Queen Anne's lace, carrot, parsley, fennel and dill. We planted all of these this year, in hopes of attracting the Black swallowtails.

We moved our caterpillar to the carrots growing in the kids garden, where he would be a bit more protected. We were gone over the weekend, and missed getting pictures of the second instar. Here it is in the third instar, it is about 1" long. We will leave him to feed on the carrots until he is full grown and then we'll bring it inside so that we can watch it pupate and transform into a chrysalis.

While weeding the tomatoes, i noticed some rather large piles of bug poo on the leaves and around the base of one of my plants. i looked all over the plant and found the culprit.

This is a huge tomato hornworm. They are considered garden pests, because one caterpillar can do some serious damage to tomato plants. They eat non-stop and will consume not only the foliage but the green tomatoes as well. They are very easy to control. You just pick them off and move them away from your garden. In the past i have just thrown them to the chickens, who tend to follow me around when ever i am in the garden.

This time however, Sage freaked out and wanted to keep it as a pet. :)

It really is rather cool looking. i love the eye spots all along it's body. This guy is huge, he is around 4" long. Which means he is almost ready to pupate.

Unlike monarchs and swallowtails, the tomato horn worms pupate underground. So when we set up a habitat for him, we placed about 2 inches of soil in the bottom of our container. i planted a small tomato plant in the soil so it had something to munch on. We had lots of tomatoes coming up in our compost, so we won't miss this one. If you don't have any extra plants, you can just give him a few leaves or branches from your tomato plant. Replacing them as necessary.

Our hornworm spent the day munching on this tomato plant. We snapped the lid on the container overnight so he didn't wander away, but is the morning there was no sign of him. So we are assuming it has buried itself in the soil and pupated. In two weeks time, it should emerge as a 5 spotted Hawk Moth. If the caterpillar pupates at the end of summer, early fall it will overwinter in the ground.

We've been checking the milkweed near us, looking for monarch eggs but haven't found any yet. We just spotted our first monarch butterfly last week. So we should be seeing them soon. The county mowers have already come by and cut down about 75% of the milkweed that was growing near the road. It always makes me sad to see this. Milkweed is the only plant that monarch caterpillars will eat, so without it there will be no Monarch butterflies.

You can find a lot of good info on raising different butterflies and moths at this website.
When raising caterpillars it is very important to know what type of caterpillar you have, and what types of host plants the caterpillar will eat. Most caterpillars will only eat very specific host plants, and will die if not provided the correct foods.

Raising caterpillars is always fascinating and educational. It's something we enjoy every summer.

For those wondering, i'll be picking the winner of the ecomom giveaway later today!!! :)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Knotty Val Winner Announced!!

The winner of the Knotty Val giveaway is....

the fam said... 19

Shared on FB ~ wendy ritchey
artstitched (at) aol (dot) com

Congratulations Wendy! i will send you an email later today. You will have 48 hours to respond to my email or a new winner will be chosen! Thank you all who entered!!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Our week so far...

We spent an afternoon in Blacksburg and took the kids to the Hand n' hand playground at Caboose park. It's a pretty cool park with three different playground area. The kids love the wooden castle playground the best. They pretended we were at Hogwarts. This is just one part of the wooden castle, i couldn't fit it all in the picture. It's huge!

We are really enjoying the creek this year. Even with all the recent bear sightings on and around our property. Last year, we had a young bear come right up into the yard. We haven't seen any bears since, but our neighbors keep spotting a very large one on our land.

i've still been taking the kids hiking in the woods and swimming down at creek. i'm not too worried about bears (okay, maybe a little) but we always bring a dog with us, just in case.

A dip in the creek is always a welcome break in the afternoon.

We found this little guy hanging out in our fairy garden. No, not the gnome....

The sweet little newt.

We made lots of giant bubbles. Usually my boy makes the bubbles and i take pictures. This time i gave him the camera, so i could make a few. They are so much fun!

We hiked to the top of the hill to pick blackberries, and a few wildflowers along the way. The lavender came from my garden.

Last night Kenan noticed a spider building a huge web outside. It attached from the corner of the roof and stretched all the way across to the peach tree.

It was pretty amazing to watch. It was too dark to get a really good picture, but this is just a common orb weaver/barn spider. We went to bed before she had the web finished, but in the morning it was completely gone. No sign that it had ever been there.

With ourweek wrapping up, we are preparing for a DeGaDar party for my boy and an impending trip up north for a family reunion. Kenan has been really productive in the new shop, and is already beginning to line up some classes and take students. We are still try to adjust to it all here at home.

Back to school is coming up quickly. i'm excited to finally be able to pick up my crafting again, but am sad that our summer has gone by so quickly. i'm going to miss our late dinners eaten outside, chasing fireflies and hola hooping after dinner. It's amazing to me how quickly it all goes by.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Sunflower Madness

i didn't actually plant any of these. They are all volunteers from last years sunflowers, or planted by the birds. i have them coming up in all of my gardens. We love sunflowers. Next summer, i'm going to plant a wall of them around the back side of the kids area, separating it from the open field.

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It's what sunflowers do. - Helen Keller,

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Gillyweed/ Kale Chips

Yes, another Kale recipe! We love our kale and eat it almost daily. Kale is incredibly easy to grow and super nutritious! This is a really simple recipe. My kids ask for these often, and they will completely devour these and ask for more! We made these a while ago for a Harry Potter Party and called it Gillyweed, so my kids still refer to it by that name.

First thing you'll want to do is pick/wash your kale. We used small bite sized leaves. If you use larger leaves, you'll want to remove stems and tear them into bite sized pieces. Use a salad spinner or pat them dry.

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.

Place your kale leaves in a bowl and toss with 1-2 TBSP of olive oil, until well coated. Lay them in a single layer on a baking sheet and sprinkle with a bit sea salt.

Bake until crisp, turning the leaves halfway through, about 15- 20 minutes. You'll want to watch these as they bake, as they tend to burn rather quickly depending on the thickness of the kale leaves. Once you notice the edges start to brown, you'll want to pay close attention so they don't burn.

Kale chips are light and crunchy. They are similar to potato chips with an added health bonus. Kale is very high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, and reasonably rich in calcium and iron.

You can also spice these up with Parmesan or Asiago cheese, red pepper flakes, balsamic vinegar, garlic salt... many different options to create some unique and tasty flavors.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Recycled Can Windchimes

i know i've posted about this before, but ever since visiting Loblolly park at the Museum of Life and Science in NC, i've wanted to create a musical garden. When my husband was building the kids play fort i was envisioning one of the walls to be decorated with pots and pans, wind chimes, bells and metal hubcaps. Anything that the kids can bang, shake and jingle to make a bit of music.

So although i knew this is something i wanted to do, the wall has remained empty. i don't really have an old pots and pans that i'm not using. i've checked the goodwill for old wind chimes, and pots...but just haven't found anything that i thought would work. Then while surfing the web, i came across an idea for Recycled can wind chimes on the Learn2grow site.

These were super easy, and the kids enjoyed helping to make them. We used non-washable acrylic paints, so the rain doesn't wash away the pretty designs. i removed the labels and washed out cans and let the kids decorate them.

To string them, i used a nail and hammer to tap a small hole in the top. You can use twine or fishing line to hang them. i attached metal washers, nuts, and bells...what ever i had on hand to use as the clapper inside the can. Then i tied a knot inside the can to hold it in place and prevent it from sliding all the way down the string.

i really like the color that they add, and noise is pleasant..not too wild. i found a metal moon that came from an old wind chime and added it to the wall as well. i know i have more of these somewhere and will be adding them as soon as i find them.

i'll also be adding more bells and wind chimes etc as i find things, but for now we are enjoying these. We plan to add more cans too, but don't eat canned food too often. So it's taken us a while to gather enough up. This is a great project for almost all ages.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Big News

If you've been reading my blog for a while then you probably know that my husband is a full time glass blower. For the past 10 years he has been working out of what was formally our garden shed. The space was very small, maybe 8'x 10 feet before you added the benches, storage and kiln. You couldn't fit more than 2 people in it comfortably and even that was a little cramped.

Last month, as i was coming home from Floyd i noticed a 'for rent' sign on the window of a little building across from the Willis Mini-mart gas station. Willis is a tiny community in Floyd county, and the downtown pretty much consists of the Mini-mart/gas-station, several churches, a Hispanic store and a car wash. It's located about half way between Hillsville and the town of Floyd.

After seeing the shop was for rent, i mentioned to Kenan that he should call on it. He kind of blew off the idea, but i was pretty persistent. It just felt like maybe it was time for him to get out of the garden shed. :) i eventually persuaded him to just inquire about the property.

So he called.

The man who owns the building is the father of one of the midwife assistants that was present at my sons birth. He knew of us, through his daughter and was really excited at the prospect of turning the building into an artist studio/gallery. He was very willing to work with Kenan on the rent price to create something that was workable for us.

This is now the new Tiemeyer Glass Studio.

The building is 1400 sq ft, it's huge! It is actually bigger than our entire house. :)

Kenan officially got the keys to the new shop on July 1st. The work getting the new shop set up was a bit more work than anticipated. He had to drill some holes through the blockwork to get his tanks set up, and ventilation in. He is still trying to re-work the ventilation to improve it. Good ventilation is extremely important. This in the very beginning stages, so it doesn't look like much yet. This will be his new work space.

This area will be an office, and serve as a storage area for some of his glass supplies. He's planning to put some shelves in and a small desk.

This will be a second workspace, available for students, visiting lamp workers...or me once the kids start school. :)

There is a large open area that we hope to turn into other 2 other artist spaces, that can eventually be rented out. The building has two large picture windows in the very front of the building and will make a very nice retail shop eventually, if we choose to go that route. It really opens up a lot of opportunities that we didn't have with Kenan here at home. He doesn't have the distraction of kids knocking on the door constantly, and now has a defined separation of work time and home time. Where before, because he worked at home he never really stopped working.

It's been quite an adjustment for the kids, not having him here. Sage has been having the hardest time, wanting to pack him a lunch and visit everyday. The new shop is only about 8 miles from our house, so we will be able to stop by now and again.

This really opens up a lot of new opportunities for us, and helps us to feel more connected with the community. i would love to see the building turned into an artist studio, with 3-4 rented spaces and a small retail store in the front. i also can see a small farm market stand out front, where i can sell fresh organic produce and flowers.

The shop isn't far from the Blue Ridge parkway, and we hope to help bring some traffic from the parkway, through Willis as people travel on to Floyd which is a tourist hot spot. On Friday Nights, Floyd hosts the Friday Night Jamboree, folks traveling up 221 can stop in the glass shop on their way into Floyd to watch live glass blowing demonstrations. We are also hoping to participate in the Floyd Artisan Trail next year.

We are pretty excited about this new venture, although things are going to be extremely tight over the next few months. The kids start school in less than a month however, and i will be putting my focus on dolls and jewelry again. So i hope to finally get my dolls up for sale and lots of new ones made!

It feels like things are coming together, and although i'm not always open to change...i'm excited to see where this all goes.